Running gave me the time and space to process the loss of my mum

Just 19 when she lost her loving and vivacious mum, Elaine, Caitlin found it hard to find the space to process what had happened.

She decided to raise money for the Marie Curie Hospice, Edinburgh by running a half marathon – and found the training, though tough, helped her to start make sense of things.

Caitlin and her beloved mum, Elaine

Back to her old self

A couple of years ago, my mum was diagnosed with cancer very suddenly. She was given two months.

Mum was in the Edinburgh hospice for those two months, where she was cared for full time. She spent her last few days at home.

When Mum was first diagnosed she was really ill. Pretty soon after going in to the hospice, the immediate sickness symptoms were sorted out.

She was still ill, but no longer in a lot of pain; she was back to being her old, sociable self.

Surrounded by friends

Mum was really passionate about a lot of things, and she had a lot of friends.

She always had loads of different things going on. She worked full time, took part in a book group, and was really involved in a Scottish pipe band.

Both Mum and I play the harp – that was her hobby, and we both learnt together. We would get frustrated at each other when we tried to teach one another too!

Bittersweet moments at the hospice

Over 100 people came to visit Mum when she was in the hospice, and she would hold cocktail parties on her little balcony.

It was her birthday whilst she was in the hospice, so she threw a party to celebrate.

Caitlin and her family supporting Heart of Midlothian Football Club: (Left to right) Caitlin, dad Alistair, mum Elaine, brother Ruairidh, and sister Riona.

The staff at the hospice were really good, too.

During Mum’s stay there, we had mine and my sister’s birthdays within a few days of each other.

The hospice chef baked my sister and I individual birthday cakes, with our names written in icing on the top of each one.

It was obviously a weird time, with Mum being ill, but it was nice that the staff wanted to make our birthdays so special.

Marathon training begins

I’m not a natural runner, and 13 miles is a long way!

Training during the winter was tough, and at the time I was also finishing off my final teaching placements.

My boyfriend, Fraser, is a good runner and would often train with me.

I was running up to ten miles at a time to get ready for my race, so it could get pretty lonely.

Time to process

Running gives you good head space.

I was 19 when Mum passed away and right in the middle of my teacher training.

I had to just keep going. Mum had been so supportive about my becoming a teacher. She would’ve wanted me to carry on.

I don’t think I ever really gave myself enough head space when she died; I was standing in front of a class ready to teach only two weeks later.

Running gave me time to process the loss. It was good for me to get out and eventually start training for the half marathon.

Caitlin ready to take on the Edinburgh half marathon!

An emotional day

We got into Edinburgh for 8am, ready for the start of the race.

When I was standing on the starting line I was nervous, but once I got going I felt OK and concentrated on pacing myself.

I felt fine for the most part, but when I came round the corner and saw the Marie Curie cheering station I felt really emotional.

My original plan was to run the first seven miles then take a quick walking break. But when I saw my mum’s friend, Maggie, at the cheer station and heard her shouting my name, I ended up running the whole way!

It makes a big difference to see all the Marie Curie well-wishers.

£100 per mile for Mum’s care

As soon as I crossed the finish line, I went and found my dad, my brother Ruairidh, and my sister Riona. I’d run past them when I got near the end too, which was another powerful reminder of why I was running.

In the end I raised £1,300. While I was running, I kept thinking that every mile was worth £100 of money raised for Marie Curie.

It reminded me what the race was about, and why I was running.

Whether you’re raising money in memory of someone special like Caitlin or if you want to help support families when they need it most, there are loads of different ways you can get involved today.

Just 19 when she lost her loving and vivacious mum, Elaine, Caitlin found it hard to find the space to process what had happened.